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Hanazono Ski Area, Niseko

Ski, board and fun for everybody

Hanazono is the most recently developed part of Mount Annupuri in the Niseko United ski area, situated on the northeastern side between Hirafu and Kutchan. It not only offers superb powder snow conditions, with perfectly groomed slopes and extensive backcountry terrain, there is also no queuing at the lifts, modern facilities and genuinely friendly people, and that's why I've been coming here every winter.

Hanazono is still a bit off the beaten track, although it's easily accessible from Hirafu and is included in the Grand Hirafu lift pass. It's true that the number of groomed runs is somewhat limited; however, the easily accessible tree runs are unbeatable and the Hanazono 308 facility is much more than just convenient. The name derives from its location 308 m above sea level and 1,000 m below the peak of Mount Annupuri. Hanazono 308 has been intelligently designed and was built using natural materials; it offers a very comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. There is a large restaurant (offering very good food), a rental and retail store, changing and locker rooms and a service counter for all sorts of snow related activities, including guided backcountry tours. Free overnight storage for your skies or board is also available. You might want to use a lock, even though I've never heard of any skies or boards that went missing. Thank you Japan!

Apart from the immaculately groomed slopes for skiers and snowboarders, which are suitable for all levels, Hanazono offers a separate learning area with 2 covered Magic Carpets, and a top-notch free ride ski and terrain park, including a competition half pipe. The Bag-jump is an attraction on its own. It's an innovative, giant multi chambered airbag that even lets you practice freestyle jumps without getting hurt.

The modern chair lifts are very comfortable, just relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings on your way up. The only exception is the lift to the very top of the mountain, an antique-looking single-chair lift, called King Lift; no safety bar and no footrest whatsoever. In spite of that, the lift guy greets you with a hearty irrashaimase (Welcome!) and puts your mind at ease. He frees your seat from even the tiniest spec of snow and off you go, itterashai (Have a safe trip!). Once you got over your nerves, it's a pretty cool ride: like floating through the air, being able to look down on a great part of the Grand Hirafu and Hanazono ski area. The views from the upper part of the resort are just awesome and include the nearby natural beauty of Mount Yotei, Hokkaido`s equivalent to Mount Fuji. You won't be disappointed!

If you are looking for accommodation near Hanazono you might like the Freedom Inn, just a 5-minute walk away from the lifts.

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